Dr Ken Aswani interview: the CQC inspector

Dr Ken Aswani talks to David Millett about why he answered the CQC's call as the regulator seeks to establish a new breed of expert GP inspectors.

'Somebody who's actually doing the job they're inspecting can bring a lot more in terms of experience and credibility,' says Dr Ken Aswani.

Just three months ago, Dr Aswani became one of England's first CQC inspectors of general practice to be drawn from the profession itself.

Under chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field, the CQC is currently piloting a reworked inspection system, which will see a GP included in every inspection team that assesses practices in England.

Senior role

Dr Aswani has attended two pilot inspections in his new role. A London GP for nearly 20 years, he says far from any suggestion of being a token presence, GPs can expect to play a 'valued, senior role' in CQC inspections.

He is filled with enthusiasm for the role, which he says GPs are ideally suited to, benefiting from a grassroots view of how general practice works and the pressures it faces.

'It's a peer joining the inspection team, which immediately gives it a different light,' he says.

'We can bring a global understanding of how a practice works because obviously we're doing it day in, day out. If you're not a GP, that's more difficult.'

Ofsted-style elements to CQC inspection have already courted controversy - representatives at the 2014 LMCs conference vehemently opposed plans for practice ratings.

But Dr Aswani says feedback so far from practices has been positive. 'We used a friendly approach and focused on appropriate areas, so when we gave suggestions for improvement, they were immediately accepted as valid and practices were happy to work on them. But we were also very clear about what was going really well and highlighted the positives, so I think they appreciated that.'

Dr Aswani's resume includes GP appraiser work, a stint as medical director and a role in primary care strategy and redesign.

Becoming an inspector seemed like the 'natural next step', he says, and will help him to fulfil his desire to 'improve quality in primary care'.

A recent GP poll suggests he is far from alone in seeking the inspector's mantle - two in five GPs said they would consider training to become a CQC inspector of general practice.

Those who do so can expect to join roughly five-person inspection teams, including a lead and a lay inspector, specialists such as pharmacists, nurses and practice managers - and the newest addition, GPs.

Throughout inspection day, GP inspectors will look at specialist areas in addition to collaborating with other members of the team.

'We divide up areas we're going to look at during inspections,' says Dr Aswani. 'Some are obviously the remit of the GP, but some are more generic and overlap with other members' specialties, and that's quite important.

'All members of the team have different skills and perspectives within each area, and it's about developing a consensus view together.

'The non-GP inspectors are very skilled in the inspection process. What we're doing is giving the added clinical expertise. We complement each other's skills.'

Part of the team

Slipping into an existing team structure could have been daunting, but Dr Aswani says he was made to feel 'valued and part of the team' rather than a last-minute addition.

'Being the clinician, I think the lead inspector really values that role. So your seniority is very much recognised because they think it's important to have a clinical approach, that's what gives it the added value.'

Dr Aswani took the lead on assessing clinical effectiveness, including how GPs are keeping up-to-date, adopting best practice and national guidance, and reviewing their practice, their approach to safety and how they work together.

He is quick to recommend the role. 'I would very much encourage other GPs to get involved, there's a huge amount to learn and it's very rewarding,' he says.

'I hope to continue to enjoy the role and at the end of the day, to make a difference to what we do in primary care.'

 

Interested in becoming a CQC inspector? Find out more here.

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